Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

20 Aug 2011

Cardinals Re-Sign Larry Fitzgerald To Monster Extension

After handing a sizable contract extension to Kevin Kolb earlier this offseason, the Cardinals finally got their best player to commit to the franchise for the long-term as well. According to ESPN, the Cardinals will give Larry Fitzgerald an eight-year, $120 million contract with $50 million in guaranteed money.

In other news, Chris Johnson's agent just bought a round for the house.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 20 Aug 2011

44 comments, Last at 24 Aug 2011, 8:36am by erniecohen


by Sisyphus :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 12:03am

Well he is the best receiver in the league but I suspect that all of the divas out there playing wide receiver are going to be thinking they are better. This is going to make future contract negotiations "interesting."

by Anonymooses (not verified) :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 12:19am

I love me some Larry Fitzgerald, but this is jaw dropping. Fitzgerald gets more guaranteed than Tom Brady got in 2010 and there's no way their age difference makes up for the relative importance of a QB over a WR.

by Karma Coma :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 12:01pm

Fitzgerald's contract is double the length and has lower $/year. I don't understand the point of the comparison.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 3:07pm

I'll take a guaranteed-to-be-unpopular shot at that one.

Fitzgerald is the best receiver in football. Brady is not the best QB in football. The age difference and the relative skill difference can make up for the positional difference.

by JIPanick :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 3:49pm

Verily, thy "not" traileth the wrong "is", undermining the very foundations of thy fundamental point.

by dryheat :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 3:52pm

I like your much more concise version better.

by dryheat :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 3:51pm

Not only is it unpopular, it is untenable.

I love Fitzgerald. I think he might be the best WR in football. But one could say "Brady is the best quarterback in football. Fitzgerald is not the best WR in football" and their statement would be at least as correct as yours.

Regardless, so what? Should Nick Mangold be getting paid more than Ben Roethlisberger on the basis of being the best at his position?

Upon a re-read, I see you attempted to explain that by "relative skill difference." I don't know what that means, but if I had to guess it's that Brady is nowhere near as good among quarterbacks as Fitzgerald is among WRs?

That's questionable if not outright spurious, and probably irrelevant. Age difference too. A 34 year old quarterback is as much in his prime as a 28 year old WR.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 4:37pm

Yes, that's pretty much what I meant by "relative skill difference" except that "nowhere near" can be replaced by "not."

You can keep declaring that the claim is "spurious" and "untenable" all day long, and I could likewise keep claiming that it's valid. But we'd just be shouting unfalsifiable (to the best of our current ability) assertions at one another.

by tally :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 4:58pm

Even if we assume that Brady isn't the best QB in the game, you can't make any argument against the fact that he is at least in the top 5. And let's make the assumption for the sake of this argument that Fitz is the best WR in the game even though I don't see any evidence to show that Fitz is better at his position than Brady is at his.

I'd still make the following assertions:

1. The best WR in the game isn't worth as much as the best QB in the game.
2. The best WR in the game isn't worth as much as the 5th best QB in the game.
3. Just because a player isn't worth as much doesn't mean he can't be paid as much.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 5:49pm

First, I can "argue" that Brady is not in the top 5 most talented QBs.
That puts him at #6.

Even so, he is a longer form explanation. Let's say there are thee axes on which we judge a player's value, age, position, and talent. Value is a function on these three items, and that function is monotonically increasing on those items (let's say age is shorthand for some sort of "primeness of age" metric to make that make sense). Without knowing anything else about the value function you can say that a player, Mr. A better in all three attributes than Mr. B has more value. If it is not the case that one player is better in all three attributes than another, then you need more data about relative values and about the function itself to come to such a conclusion. So granting that QB is inherently more valuable than WR and that the age axis is insufficient to warrant Fitzgerald's value exceeding Brady's, it is still possible that if you consider Fitzgerald to be a better WR than you consider Brady to be a QB (and I definitely believe that to be the case), then you cannot conclude that Brady must be more valuable than Fitzgerald - and you can't conclude the other direction either.

Now, which would I consider more valuable if I were running a franchise? Well, that depends on my team's current makeup and scheme and all that, but everything else being equal or if I'm running an expansion team or something, then I'm probably picking Brady. But I'm not discounting that one could reasonably prefer Fitzgerald, especially under different conditions.

by Theo :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 6:33pm

Supply and demand.
Fitz is very good, the cards want him and are willing to spend it.
What this has to do with him being QB or WR or Brady has nothing to do with it.
One year ago a nose tackle got 100M.
Really, a player is worth what the crazy guy is willing to offer.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 08/22/2011 - 12:55pm

Rivers?! LOL! That's awesome. And here I thought the whole time you were presenting a serious argument. Awesome wit, sir!

by Scott C :: Mon, 08/22/2011 - 9:24pm

Why not?

I'd rather have Rivers than Brady. Its not 2007, its 2011. The top two young QBs are Rivers and Rodgers, period.

by RickD :: Mon, 08/22/2011 - 1:01pm

You could argue that Rivers and Roethlisberger are better than Brady. But you would have been better off sticking to the argument that he wasn't "the best". By arguing that he's not in the Top 5, you've destroyed your credibility.

Perhaps you should take a longer look at FO's QB ratings. Brady really is very, very good.

by RickD :: Mon, 08/22/2011 - 1:04pm

And while you're at it, take a look at how well Fitzgerald did last season without a decent QB. He was rated as below replacement value.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2011 - 10:06am

There are times when you doubt the player, and times when you doubt the metric. Which do you think was more likely -- that Fitzgerald was a stellar receiving playing with Pop Warner-caliber QBs, or that Arizona should have replaced Fitzgerald with a Steve Breaston clone?

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 08/22/2011 - 2:48pm

How have I destroyed my credibility? By stating an opinion you don't share? I argued that he's not in the top 5 most talented quarterbacks in the league by listing five who are better. Sure that's just an assertion, but to claim that my assertion that those five are better than Brady - and yes, those five quarterbacks are each more talented than Tom Brady - destroys my credibility while your assertion that he's the best quarterback does not destroy yours is either intellectually dishonest or facile in the extreme.

I've looked at FO's "QB ratings." Might I suggest you take a closer look at what is being measured? It's "passing efficiency" not "QB talent."

by RickD :: Mon, 08/22/2011 - 12:58pm

a) Brady is at worst the 2nd best QB in football, and that's only if you ignore his MVP last season and Manning's neck injury.

b) the QB is far more important than the WR. An excellent QB can make do with mid-level WRs (see, for example, Deion Branch's Super Bowl MVP). An excellent WR with a mid-tier QB is not going to accomplish all that much.

by Stabs :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 1:13am

The cynical Bidwill hater in me thinks this is just a move to guarantee ticket/jersey sales for a few years, but the Cardinals fan in me is overjoyed to be able to watch a classy elite talent on my team for the next 8 years.

by andrew :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 1:18am

I think there was a very real chance he would have left had they not done this.

OTOH I think it kinda hamstrings them. Every time the owners complain about player salaries skyrocketing they turn around and keep making these deals.

by Kibbles :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 1:31am

The reason player salaries keep skyrocketing is because the salary cap keeps skyrocketing. Contracts like this always seem jaw-dropping because we're comparing them to contracts signed in the past 2, 3, 4 years. That's the wrong tact- we should be comparing them to the contracts that will be signed in the next 2, 3, 4 years. I suspect by that comparison, Fitzgerald's contract will seem much more reasonable.

I remember last year or the year before when Under the Cap took a look at the 10 highest-paid players by position. It was really striking how at every position the 10 highest paid players were, almost without exception, simply "the 10 good-or-better players at this position whose contract has come up in the last 2-3 years".

by Yaguar :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 2:14am

I agree, and I suggest that unless Fitzgerald somehow becomes... not one of the best ten WRs in the game, the deal will look pretty awesome by 2017 or so.

by Stewart (not verified) :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 3:11am

On the other hand, the extension Drew Bledsoe signed with the Pats before the 2001 season would have run out I think at the beginning of FA in March 2010. In retrospect, the Patriots did not see much for that megadeal. The thing with really long contracts is for one party or the other, things could look very different in two years, let alone eight.

by Mr Shush :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 6:09am

In 2017 Fitzgerald will be 34. Even the greatest wide receivers are in decline by that age, and a lot of them fall off sharply around there. Torry Holt didn't even get that far, retiring at 33, as did Michael Irvin. There's really no guarantee Fitzgerald will remain one of the best 10 WRs in the game for 5 years, never mind 8. It's possible, of course, but very far from certain.

by RichC (not verified) :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 1:28pm

And how is that a problem?

Chances are, the salary in the last 2 years is huge, and they'll get a huge cap break if he's no longer any good.

by Mr Shush :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 2:11pm

Well, the post I was replying to mentioned 2017 as a date by which the cap would have expanded enough for the contract to seem excellent value, and implied that Fitzgerald was likely to be a top ten wide receiver throughout the next eight years.

But more generally, there's plenty of precendent for elite wide receivers declining severely well before age 34. Again, Torry Holt is a particularly striking example. What if Fitzgerald's last year of elite performance turns out to be 2013? Maybe he's Jerry Rice, in which case of course this is a great deal. But maybe he's not.

by fooBarFooFoo (not verified) :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 6:12am

The salary cap this season is actually lower than two years ago.

Fitz is really a special case because he can demand so much money guaranteed. The contracts other players - esp. WRs - are signing are phony. Brandon Marshall with reported value of 10 million per year is not nearly in the same ballpark as Fitz's deal.

Now, Fitz can demand so much money guaranteed because of the escalators in his rookie deal which pushed the guaranteed money for the last years to ten million. At that time the Cards had little wiggle room for the extension but to pay him that much guaranteed. This time it looks the same. Additionally, they couldn't trade him.

And common sense would say that this is really a five or six year deal (so a four to five year extension) worth around 50 to 60. Maybe a tad more. But don't forget he already had 10 million guaranteed for this season, which is included in the new deal.

by RickD :: Mon, 08/22/2011 - 1:11pm

The reason salaries keep skyrocketing has far more to do with the extraordinary amount of revenue the NFL takes in than the increases in the salary cap.

by Kibbles :: Wed, 08/24/2011 - 2:24am

I really don't understand this statement. The salary cap is tied directly to revenues. If revenues double, the cap doubles. That's like saying "Larry Fitzgerald is far more likely to decline based on how many days he's been alive than based on how old he is".

by Karl Cuba :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 10:00am

If the new TV deals kick in after 2014 then the cap will grow with it. I've read speculation that the TV money could double, which would push the cap up at least 50%, so a $10 million receiver becomes a %15 million man. I'd love to see the full figures because it woldn't be the first contract to be signed post new CBA that balloons in 2014.

by andrew :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 5:41pm

If (god forbid) Fitzgerald had a career-ending injury, would the Cardinals take an immediate salary cap hit on that $50 million guaranteed?

by QQ (not verified) :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 5:47pm

As great as Fitzgerald is, I'd rather have 3 different receivers making $5 mil each that 1 making $15 mil. Having a stud #1 Wr is nice but so is doing what GB does and lining up #3, #4, and #5 receivers that are simply better than the #3, #4, and #5 DBs covering them

by Ryan (not verified) :: Sun, 08/21/2011 - 7:53pm


I wonder if that's an exploit that most coaches aren't utilizing. Moreso than any other position, the success of receivers mostly comes down to individual matchups. Having four #2 caliber receivers would mean that you: lose the matchup to their #1 corner, have a 50/50 matchup on #2, and then big advantages with your #3 and #4 receivers.

No one is going to be able to stop you either...what are they going to do, sign four #2 caliber corners for the one week they happen to play your team? Even if they do that, they'll be losing their matchup on each team's #1 receiver the rest of the season.

Of course, you have to start with a great quarterback.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 08/22/2011 - 6:36am

Of course, a really elite receiver, like Fitzgerald (or Andre Johnson, or Roddy White, or Megatron) frequently draws not only the top corner but a safety to boot, thus making life easier both for all the other receivers and for the running game, which will see very few 8 man fronts.

by erniecohen :: Mon, 08/22/2011 - 8:25am

I don't get it. Does anybody have a quantitative analysis to suggest that Fitzgerald is expected to be worth $15M/year?

In his last 3 years, Fitzgerald's DYAR have been about +400, +280, -3. At an average free agent rate of about $50K/yard, that gives him a value of $20M, $14M, $0. So if he produces at the rate of the the average of his first two years, its a modest profit ($2M/year) for the team. If he produces at his average level of the last three years, its a substantial hit ($4M/year) for the team. Does anybody think that the former is more likely?

That means that this is worse than the average FA deal. And FA deals are bad on average.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 08/22/2011 - 8:30am

DYAR isn't really an individual player stat. Fitz's DYAR is just as much a product of Max Hall as it is of Fitz. DYAR also ignore the affect that good receivers have on coverage schemes in general.

In short, this isn't baseball.

by andrew :: Mon, 08/22/2011 - 9:26am

We need a new statistic: SDYAR. Salary and Defense Adjusted Yards Above Replacement.

by erniecohen :: Mon, 08/22/2011 - 12:17pm

I only picked DYAR as a metric because without having some way to measure value quantitatively, this whole conversation becomes ridiculous. My point is that I'm yet to see anyone present any metric that argues that Fitzgerald is worth $15M/year. While DYAR is a straw man, at least it gives a number. By all means use a different, more accurate way to talk about Fitz is worth.

I likewise am yet to see any metric that supports the notion that Chris Johnson is worth anything like what he is asking. I have to say that I was quite disappointed that Aaron chose to comment on CJ by bringing up the lack of teams with dominant RBs getting to the SB. He should have been saying "look, using the best methodology we have right now, we figure that CJ is likey to be worth X additional yards to his team, and these yards are worth about $Y, as opposed to the ridicuous amount he is asking for".

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Mon, 08/22/2011 - 9:07am

In the offense the 2010 Cardinals had, God would have had a 0 DYAR.

by Theo :: Mon, 08/22/2011 - 10:07am

A friend of mine also got a very expensive receiver. Cost him about $1500, but it's worth it he says.
But then he went out and got a second hand CD player, which appears to be functioning, but skips... he got it from ebay, so he can't get a quarter back.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 08/22/2011 - 1:37pm

When read monater extension on fotball site horrible tjoughts of mike ditka and Jommy Johnson's peckers come to mind.

by erniecohen :: Tue, 08/23/2011 - 7:16am

waited 24 hours for somone to give raiderjoe sime luv for this but nobody did so I havr to

by Kibbles :: Wed, 08/24/2011 - 2:31am

Out of sick curiosity, just how many peckers does Jommy Johnson have?

by erniecohen :: Wed, 08/24/2011 - 8:36am

a peck of pickled peckers, of course